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What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (from January 2018 through March 2018)

What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading

(from January 2018 through March 2018)


Anon. Isambard Kingdom Brunel: A Life from Beginning to End. Hourly History, 2017.

The premise of the Hourly History publications is to introduce the reader to a subject in less than 60 minutes of reading. This one was on the life of the great engineer Isambard Brunel. He is considered one of Britons top 100 innovators. I became familiar with the name of Brunel while living in Southwest England. The great western railway with its immense tunnels and beautifully designed stations is still a wonder in the modern world. Brunels great suspension bridge in Clifton and his magnificent SS Great Britain in Bristol are all testimonies to his achievements. This short biography reveals that the man had as many failures as he did successes. This brief book left me wanting to know more about the subject, therefore it certainly achieved its purpose in gaining my interest.


Bonar, Horatius. Light & Truth Bible Thoughts and Themes (Vol. 1): Old Testament. Muskegon, WI: Dust & Ashes Publications, 2002.

Horatio Bonar (1808-1889) was a Scottish pastor and one of the leaders of the Free Church movement in Scotland. He is mostly known for his magnificent hymns. (In our congregation, we frequently sing ‘I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say’). But as a leading light, Bonar wrote columns in various magazines with great regularity. Dust and Ashes Publications collected and edited five volumes of these articles. The first volume concentrates on Old Testament passages. I would measure that this was not Bonar’s strength. Most of these lessons are mediocre. A few (though small in number) even fall into the category of poor exegesis. They reveal that Bonar could be rather myopic due to his eschatological views. But there are some wonderful gems here as well. I one devotion, He posed a thought as to whether we wanted an unjust God ruling over the punishment of hell- think of how awful that would be! I had never conceived of that as an apologetic before. It keeps me interested enough to pursue the other volumes in the future.


Bourne, F.W. The King’s Son or A Memoir of Billy Bray. London: Bible Christian Book- Room, 1896.

Billy Bray (1794-1868) was a Cornish Bryanite Methodist lay preacher. He was a coal minor who preached to the minors. This biography by his friend F.W. Bourne made him a household name in England and became an instant best seller. I think if I had known Bray personally he would have driven me crazy. He was enthusiastic, uncouth, undisciplined and judgmental (particularly against those that did not agree with him). However, he was passionate about the gospel. Even if his theology was off, he did have a passion to see  the lost saved and it motivated his life. The story is appealing just because Billy was so simple in his understanding- love Jesus and give your all to him. But the biography is also revealing in that it isn’t always just that simple. Bray particularly allowed his understanding of class to affect his judgment of intellectual Christians and those of different denominations. Brays life serves as enduring legacy of someone who might be hindered by a lack of education but still passionate about God.


Davis, Dale Ralph. Stump Kingdom: Isaiah 6-12. Fearn: Christian Focus, 2017.

It is hard to keep up with where Dale Ralph Davis is serving, but currently, he is the minister in residence at First Presbyterian in Columbia, SC. This book is Davis’ exposition of Isaiah 6 through 12 where the coming of Immanuel is foretold. Davis presents this difficult text in an easy understandable way. He validates my suspicions that the child in 7:14 is not Isaiah’s son in chapter 8 (as most commentators propose as a ‘double sign’), but a future son which was the coming Christ. Davis is a master illustrator. His work is always enjoyable to read.


Eyrich, Howard (with Judy Dabler). The Art of Aging: A Christian Handbook. Beidji, MN:Focus Publishing, 2006.

Howard Eyrich is the head of counseling at the Birmingham Theological Seminary and at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, AL. He will be speaking at our church in April on the subject of aging. His ‘handbook’ is excellent. It deals with all the major issues of growing older from providing care for aging parents to preparing for retirement. The book is short and practical. It is easy to read. To be fair, it does generalize in places. But while it can’t be overly comprehensive, it will lead the reader to other sources from which he or she can draw for more information. There is not a single adult who will not benefit from reading this book.


Ferguson, Sinclair. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism and Gospel Assurances-Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016.

I have to admit that I have a man-crush on Sinclair Ferguson. I think he is one of the finest communicators of the gospel in our day. And this book did not disappoint. Ferguson uses an early eighteenth century Scottish controversy to illustrate that the conflict between law an gospel still exist to this day. What is the balance between legalism (living under the law) and antinomianism (living freed from the law)? How does one know one is saved? Ferguson’s answer is simple to each question; Christ. By focusing on the doctrine of Union with Christ, he provides a solution that is still needed today- embracing the whole of Christ. It is a challenging read (and understandably my interest in history motivated my reading). But it is well worth the effort. This might have been one of the better books I have read in the last decade.


Guinness, Michele. Genius of Guinness: The Enduring Legacy of an Irish Dynasty. Greenville, SC: Ambassador International, 2005.

 Most people are familiar with the famous Irish brewers, but few are aware that one branch of the Guinness family, were a part of the great Evangelical Mission movement in the Nineteenth Century. Henry Grattan Guinness, son of the brewer, Arthur Guinness, was one of the foremost preachers in Britain. He began a mission school that sent missionaries all over the world. His daughter was married the son of Hudson Taylor. The story of this side of the Guinness is well worth telling. It has everything from romance, to adventure to unrequited love. Unfortunately, Michele Guiness, who married into the family was probably not the person to write it. She has little knowledge of the history of the period and she could have benefited from an editor. I would add that she probably bit off more than she could chew by telling the story of all three branches (brewers, bankers and missionaries) of the family. It would have been better served to focus on one. But for now, it serves as the best available in telling the remarkable story of the Gratten Guiness side.  


Kalisher, Meno. Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures: The Identity of the Messiah. Jerusalem: Jerusalem Assembly, 2015.

A friend brought me this book from a church that he visited while in Jerusalem. It was written by the Israeli pastor, who was born into a Judeo/Christian family. The purpose is to convince the seeker from a Jewish background that Jesus is the Messiah primarily from the text of the Old Testament. Passages from the New Testament are only used to prove that Jesus did fulfill what the prophets foretold of him. It is written to be ‘concise, clear’ and ‘timely’ (which I presume to mean readily accessible to the culture). There are aspects about the book I like- for example the fine exposition of Isaiah 7 (which many evangelicals get wrong) and the listing of places where God is referred to as a plural in the Old Testament. But the author and I would definitely disagree in our eschatology (he is a dispensationalist). And I would dare say, that a Hebrew scholar would take exception and put up a rigid resistance to the manner in which the writer portrays some of the rabbinical writings. But to the casual Jew, who is unacquainted with his own scriptures will find a convincing argument that Jesus is the Messiah. I am grateful to have read an example of evangelistic efforts in Israel today.


Kuyper, Simon. Football Against The Enemy. London: Orion Books, 1996.

Simon Kuyper is a British columnist for the Financial Times. He spent a year traveling all over the world to discover the connection between sport and politics. As this is a global examination, soccer was the obvious sport upon which to focus. And, at the time of his writing, the 1994 World Cup was just ramping up in the United States. I was amazed at the access to world leaders and the evidence Kuyper was able to produce. Soccer has been used for propaganda, mass control and of course, financial benefits. Even if you are not a soccer fan, this book will fascinate you. You will understand more of the world and other cultures. Kuyper’s style is witty and engaging. But be aware, as journalist he provides real quotes and observations. So expect ‘colorful’ language.


O’Donnell, Douglas Sean. The Beginning and End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from the First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011.

My friend, Kyle, loves to study the genre of Biblical Wisdom. Naturally, as I began preparing to preach through Proverbs, I asked his opinion as to what is the best book on Wisdom that he has read. Kyle recommended this book. I am glad he did. It has helped me understand how to point towards Christ as I preach through the wisdom literature. O’Donnell begins with a general discussion on wisdom as it relates to Christ and then he provides six sermons as illustrations as to how he preaches a text with an emphasis on the gospel. He concludes with a general overview how each ‘wisdom’ book of scripture can emphasize a specific aspect of the gospel. O’Donnell is both well-read and intellectual. And yet, he is also very humorous. This was a very pleasant read and one I highly recommend. I shall look forward to reading another book by the author.


Parr, Katherine. The Lamentation of a Sinner. O’Fallon, MO: Good News Books, 2017.

Lamentation of a Sinner is brief book written by Kate Parr, the Queen of England and last wife of Henry VIII. I was inspired to read her writings when Michael Haykin spoke about her at our annual church history conference. I am glad I did. This was a woman who truly knew Christ and had a deep appreciation for what he had done for her on the cross. The admission of her depravity was very courageous for her day. And one can forgive the necessary accolades for her husband. But the better parts are her description of what true regeneration should like and her criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. I look forward to reading more of her writings as she seems to be a wonderful example of Christian womanhood.


Powlison, David. How Does Sanctification Work? Wheaton: Crossway, 2017.

This is a short simple work on sanctification. The strength of the book is Powlison’s accurate and sobering description of the sanctification process. While there are consistent patterns of the ways that God will sanctify his children, there is no one-size-fits-all method. Powlison reminds us that sanctification is ongoing. It never stops until we reach home so that Christ may be magnified in our lives. It is an encouraging reminder that God is ever present and working, even in the times when we fail to notice.


Powlison, David. Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining and Bitterness. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2016.

It may seem like I was on a Powlison mission based upon the reviews below. But I started this book toward the end of last year and worked through it with my men’s small group. All of us struggle with controlling our anger in some way. Powlison reminds us that God has placed anger in us for a purpose. It is right that we should be upset over real injustice. But our anger is likely to be misplaced, especially when mankind thinks it is the standard of righteousness. Powlison helps the reader to know how we redeem our anger for the good of God. It is superb Biblical counsel. His ideas on dealing with anger from a constructive point of view are particularly useful (Chapters 7-8 and 13). I found his insights powerful an they helped me personally. But be aware that Powlison is writing to Christians. He assumes the reader will submit to the authority of the Bible and take direction from the Holy Spirit. This is not the typical self-help book that can be casually given the non-believer.


Powlison, David. Making All Things New: Restoring Hope to the Sexually Broken. Wheaton: Crossway, 2017.

This is Powlison’s second installment on the concept of sanctification. It is a companion piece to How Does Sanctification Work? In this book, Powlison addresses those who are sexually broken. It is for those who engage in sexuality and those who have been victimized by a sexual predator. For the former, I think Powlison does an excellent job making the connection between fidelity and self-control (a concept I hope to use as I preach through Proverbs). He also reminds the reader that each day is a battle. There will never be a day when we do not need the graces of God. There is no complete victory until we arrive in eternity. As for as those who have been abused, I am not sure that Powlison addressed the issue sufficient enough to merit a recommendation there. It seemed most of the content was for those who struggle with sexual immorality. For that group, this would be a good introductory book that would be encouragement to continue the battle.


Rainer, Thom S. Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Your Alive. Nashville: B&H, 2014.

I was given a free copy of this book. And if truth be known, books that are based on some sort of step method tend to turn me off- especially when it come to church growth. They tend to be very  man-centered. But Rainer’s book pleasantly surprised me. The author points to what a healthy robust church should look like. Over the years, he has professionally evaluated church health. And here, he presents the signs of when a church is in spiritual decline. The book is very practical in its assessment. The warnings can all be found in scripture- spiritual apathy, resting on the achievements of the past, not embracing the surrounding community, lack of prayer and others. Rainer’s answer to this decline is to point the reader toward Christ. If passion for Christ cannot be reignited then the church must face the inevitable decline or at worst, closure.


Thornton, Champ. Pass It On! A Proverbs Journal for the Next Generation. Greensboro, NC: Ne Growth Press, 2017.

This is a delightful study through the book of Proverbs. It walks the reader through the book of Proverbs using a translation of the text by the eminent wisdom scholar, Bruce Waltke. Thornton presents the material accurately and fairly. The reader is encouraged to draw upon life experiences and record his or her thoughts in the journal section. When the study is complete, it is intended to be passed down to either a son or daughter or grandchild for posterity sake. I enjoyed the study and benefited from it greatly in preparation to preaching on Proverbs.


Tripp, Paul David. Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional. Wheaton: Crossway, 2017.

Paul David Tripp has a way of communicating deep knowledge with brevity. He writes beautiful devotional material. This latest on the incarnation of our Lord ranks among his best. I read it throughout the month of December as a daily devotion. It did not fail to spur my thoughts toward the greatness of our Savior. This is one I am likely to read over again during another Christmas season. I highly recommend it.